A Sunderland health expert has supported demands for a meningitis vaccine for older children.
Professor Jim Smith, secretary for the Sunderland Local Pharmaceutical Committee, says cost is one of the reasons why there is a lack of a widespread meningitis vaccine.
A public outcry has been sparked after two-year-old Faye Burdett, of Maidstone, passed away from Meningitis B, fuelling more than 480,000 people to sign a Parliamentary e-petition to give the vaccine to children up to the age of 11.
More signatures came as ex-England rugby union captain Matt Dawson revealed his family ordeal, as his two-year-old son was treated for meningitis C. The petition will be considered for debate by MPs.
Prof Smith said: “My understanding is that the primary reasons are financial and scientific.
“I read the expert advice from the NHS last night, and it was quite clear that the vaccine is good for older children, but for financial reasons it hasn’t happened.”
From September 1 last year, the Meningitis B vaccine was added to the NHS Childhood Immunisation Programme. Babies born after July 1 last year were given the vaccine in intervals between 2-13 months. However, there are no vaccines available for older children.
Prof Smith said: “ Understandably, it is a rare illness, as it is devastating when it happens. But the Government was right to vaccinate new-borns the first time. As a result, older children are at risk. Meanwhile, some people obtained the vaccine privately, at a cost.
“The actual vaccine is a brilliant piece of technology, as so much work has gone into producing a brilliant product. It’s a success story. We were the first country in the world to offer the meningitis B vaccine for babies.
“The cost of development by pharmacy companies is in the vaccine. This is why there have been tight negotiations between NHS and British pharmacy companies.”
In 2012, parents Nicole and Brent Stokes, of Springwell, lost their baby Harry due to the side effects of Group B Streptococcus meningitis, and have been campaigning to increase awareness every since.
The petition for a meningitis vaccine for older children can be found at:
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Meningitis groups back vaccines petition www.sr-news.com/?p=30080